To this author, this pear-shaped fruit which is also rich in vitamins and minerals is a champion crop.

Avocado (Persea americana) is a tree native to Central Mexico and is a commercially valuable and cultivated crop in tropical and Mediterranean-type climates throughout the world. It has a green-skinned and fleshy fruit which ripens after harvesting. Avocado trees are partially self-pollinating and but are often propagated asexually through grafting to maintain a predictable quality and quantity of the fruit.

Avocado

Avocados are frequently used for milkshakes and are occasionally added to ice cream and other desserts. In the Philippines and in other countries like Brazil, Vietnam, and Indonesia, avocado is served as a drink or, more popularly, as avocado shake. Ripe avocado may be eaten fresh by scooping the flesh from the skin or one can simply add sugar, milk or water to suit one’s taste. Many Filipinos simply find the avocado so delicious and appealing to the taste.

The origin of avocado

Avocado originated in the state of Puebla, Mexico. The undomesticated variety is known as a criollo, which has a small fruit with dark black skin and contains a large seed. The oldest evidence of avocado was found in a cave located in Coxcatlán, Puebla, Mexico, around 10,000 BC. The avocado tree has since had a long history of cultivation in Central and South America.

The first written record in English of the use of the word ‘avocado’ was by Hans Sloane in a 1696 index of Jamaican plants. The plant was introduced to Indonesia in 1750, Brazil in 1809, the Levant in 1908, and South Africa and Australia in the late 19th century. In some South American countries like Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, and Uruguay, the fruit is known by its Quechua name, palta. In other Spanish-speaking countries it is known by the Mexican name and in Portuguese it is abacate. The fruit is sometimes called an avocado pear or alligator pear (due to its shape and the rough green skin of some cultivars).

Avocado was introduced from Mexico to California in the 19th century and has become a successful cash crop. It is known as ‘aguacate’ in Spanish use and as ‘abokado’ in the Philippines.

According to a comprehensive research study made by Dr. Rachel C. Sotto of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), several plant species were introduced into the country at the end of the nineteenth century. These came from different parts of the world and included fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants. Some proved to be valuable and easily adapted to Philippine conditions while others were less promising and did not gain wide acceptance among the populace. One of the introductions which proved to be suitable to Philippine soil and climatic conditions was the avocado.

It was introduced to the Philippines in 1890 by the Spaniards through seeds coming from Mexico. However, it was only from 1902 to 1907 that avocado was introduced successfully in larger scale to the Philippines by the Americans. Through the then Bureau of Agriculture (now the Bureau of Plant and Industry), planting materials were received from Hawaii, Costa Rica and the United States.

In 1913, the Bureau of Agriculture, together with the College of Agriculture of UPLB, started the countrywide distribution avocado trees. Today, avocados are found growing all over the country, most of which are cultivated in backyards.

Facts and nutritional values

The most common types are: Bacon, Fuerte, Gwen, Hass, Pinkerton, Reed, and Zutano. The Hass avocado is today’s most common variety. All Hass avocado trees are descended from a single “mother tree” which was raised by a mail carrier named Rudolph Hass, of La Habra Heights in California. Hass patented the productive tree in 1935. The “mother tree”, of uncertain subspecies, died of root rot and was cut down in September 2002. Hass trees have medium-sized (150–250 g), ovate fruit with a black, pebbled skin. The flesh has a nutty, rich flavor with 19 percent oil.

The fruit is primarily pear-shaped, but some varieties are also almost round. They weigh from one ounce to up to 4 pounds each. Avocaditos are a cocktail-sized version of the avocado that is the size of a small gherkin, weighing only about an ounce.

In the Philippines, two distinct types of avocado exist, namely the green-fruited and the purple-fruited types. In other countries and notably in the USA, the green-fruited varieties are preferred. In the Philippines, however, the purple-fruited varieties are preferred by the consumers. (Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, Department of Agriculture).

About 75 percent of an avocado’s calories come from fat, most of which is monounsaturated fat. On a 100g basis, avocados have 35 percent more potassium (485 mg) than bananas (358 mg). They are rich in B vitamins, as well as vitamin E and vitamin K. Avocados have a high fiber content of 75 percent insoluble and 25 percent soluble fiber.

Avocado is often said to be the most nutritious fruit in the world. The fruit provides more than 25 essential nutrients such as protein, iron, copper, phosphorus and magnesium, just to name a few.

Nutritionists claim avocado contain amounts of Vitamin C (necessary for the production of collagen needed for the growth of new cells and tissues, prevents viruses from penetrating cell membranes, and also a powerful anti-oxidant), thiamine (converts carbohydrates to glucose to fuel the brain and nervous system), and riboflavin (helps the body to release energy from proteins, carbohydrates and fat).

In an article prepared by Dr. Ed Bauman, director of Bauman College he noted that “avocados aid in blood and tissue regeneration, stabilize blood sugar, and are excellent for heart disorders… They’re loaded with fiber (11 to 17 grams per fruit) and are a good source of lutein, an antioxidant linked to eye and skin health”.

Overall, avocado is considered a complete food: it has vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, calories and fiber, no cholesterol, and is sodium free. As such, avocado is ideal for growing up children, adults and even for babies, especially when blended with other fruits. For athletes, avocado is a nutritious energy booster to rev up the body’s strength.

Promising crop

As articulated by Dr. Sotto in her report, avocado has a bright potential for development in the country for the following reasons:

Avocado can be found growing all over the country. This is due to the introduction of several varieties belonging to the three different avocado races, giving the crop a wide range of soil and climatic adaptability.

Avocado has a long fruiting season. In the Philippines, the peak of the fruiting season is from May to September, although some trees in certain localities fruit from January to March. By planting varieties which bear fruits at different times of the year, it may be possible to have a year-round supply of avocado fruits.

Avocado is one of the most nutritious and versatile fruits in the world. It is the ideal fruit for the diabetic and the anemic. The leaves and the seeds have several medicinal uses.

Perceived constraints and challenges

Since the avocado is still not considered a major fruit in the land and is grown mostly as a backyard plant, only a limited amount of planting material is being produced today in a few government institutions and private nurseries. Compounding this is that planting materials may only come in the form of grafted plants or seedlings for rootstock use as an assurance of continuing the good characteristics of parent plants. The University of the Philippines Los Baños, particularly the National Seed Foundation and the Department of Horticulture, produce only a few hundred grafted plants of locally-available varieties at any one time.

Avocado has not yet attained the popularity or the status being enjoyed by other high-value fruit crops like mango, banana and pineapple in terms of consumption, production, management, cultural practices and marketing. In addition, many are still not fully aware of the varied uses and excellent nutritional value of the fruit. If we are able to educate ourselves on the varied uses of the fruit and acquire the taste for the fruit — then avocado would be very promising crop for the domestic and export market. To this end, immediate and doable measures would be in the form advertisements and a strong promotional campaign on the different uses of the avocado.

With its long list of advantages, the future of avocado in the country may be worthwhile pursuing. So, why not try avocado. ###

Here’s a comprehensive article on 13 Health Benefits of Avocado

Sources:
1. Brown, W.H. 1943. Useful plants of the Philippines. Republic of the Philippines Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, Department of Agriculture. 1998. Crop Statistics. Philippines.
2. Barry, PC (2001-04-07). “Avocado: The Early Roots of Avocado History”. Canku Ota. Archived from the original on 15 December 2007.
3. Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989), articles “avocado”, “alligator, n.2”
4. Coronel, R.E. 1983. Avocado. In: Promising Fruits of the Philippines. College of Agriculture, University of the Philippines Los Baños, College, Laguna, Philippines.
5. Galang, F.G. 1955. Fruit and Nut Growing in the Philippines. AIA Printing Press, Malabon, Rizal, Philippines.
6. Philippine Fruit Association. 1998. Plan of action for the development of the Philippine fruit industry. Paper submitted to the Department of Agriculture, Philippines.

By: Patrick Raymund A. Lesaca, BAR Digest October-December 2012 Issue (Vol. 14 No. 4)